In an effort to keep students who fail early in their high school careers from falling completely out of school, ninth grade teachers at Madison’s West High School are planning to assign classroom grades of no less than 40%, eliminate extra credit and allow up to 90% credit for late work in required classes.
Madison’s largest high school plans to implement several changes to grading practices this year — primarily meant to keep freshman on-track to graduate during a time when slips in academic performance are not unusual — while other changes school-wide are being sought to create consistent expectations for grading.
Among the changes sought this year for all ninth grade core classes, which are required courses in English, math, science, social studies and physical education, is the idea of a “grading floor,” which would mean an assignment could receive no less than 40% regardless of whether it is completed. A 40% would still result in a failing grade.
West High Principal Karen Boran said moving to a grading floor in the required freshman classes could prevent a “super F” — assignments and tests receiving a zero, which can drag down students’ overall average grades and prevent them from catching up in a class.
“Traditionally, grades are given out on a 100-point grading scale, so you have 60 points to get it wrong, to fail. You have 40 points to get it right,” Boran said. “Once you get a couple of F’s, you can’t come back from that.”
Mike Hernandez, the district’s chief of high schools, said grading floors are also being tested at freshman classes in the other high schools, such as U.S. History at La Follette High School and algebra at East High School.
Madison West high school has conducted several experiments over the years, including:
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“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) east, especially if you are Black or Hispanic.